Coming Clean, Bounds Green

Stripping off isn’t generally the first thing you do when you get to work but for naked house cleaner Ethan Mechare that was the point. As to what happened next, well, it could be just about anything. He also did some cleaning sometimes.

In his one-man show Coming Clean, currently being performed in various venues, including a home in Bounds Green, Ethan revisits his experiences working as a naked house cleaner. But first, how did he start out in this?

Ethan was at a loss. He’d moved to London from his native California but didn’t know what to do with himself. In the end, he turned to Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine for some inspirational advice, and he made himself a mood board/vision board/dream board. On his board, he realised, were two things he really loved: naked fun with other guys and spot cleaning. Oh boy, does he love spot cleaning. And so, a small business was born.

Under the name Ernest, he advertised his services, and clients in all their weird and wonderful variety started to book him. There was the guy in the pristine apartment who wanted Ernest to, um, pleasure himself and then clean it all up. There was the 50-something East End cab driver whose wife had recently died, who invited a hot, young “mate” over to join he and Ernest and make it a party. And there was the ex-military South Londoner who also invited a guest, but sadly left Ernest downstairs with the vacuum cleaner.

There was also the man who wanted Ernest to recreate a niche interest video he’d seen on the internet. Ernest declined to do it but Ethan gleefully showed it to us. (If it’s not to your taste you can vote not to watch it, but I suggest that you don’t. It’s less gross than it sounds, and rather charming in its own way.)

Helping Ethan throughout the show is his friend, stage manager, sound effects engineer and snack distributor Cath Royle, a sort of Madge Allsop meets Debbie McGee figure, except she banters back when Ethan mocks her. The dynamic between the two is a perfect combination of bitchy and loving, and Cath’s a great addition to the show.

The masterstroke, though, is performing the show in a house. This is about fantasies where the erotic and the domestic are combined, and perhaps only in someone’s real life, lived in, living room can a group of strangers feel comfortable enough to participate. What are your fantasies, Ethan asks, have they ever been fulfilled, and dare you admit to them? Some did, even if it was just to confess that, being British, some of this is a bit too much for them.

Whatever your fantasy or taste in online videos, this is a life-affirming, funny and thought-provoking show, cleverly put together with director Jill Patterson and well-performed by Ethan Mechare.

Tickets are available via http://comingcleantheshow.com/.

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May Contain Nuts: Nudity on the stage

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Freddie Fox and Tom Colley in The Judas Kiss (Hampstead)

I’ll be blunt. I enjoy the prospect of nudity, male or female I am equal opportunities, a bit too much. I think the warnings that appear on websites or via an usher’s mouth make it feel like it is a very naughty private play that the Lord Chamberlain might burst in on at any minute. Is nudity just a gimmick to get (clothed) bottoms on seats or is it often crucial to the narrative.

The recent cancellation of The Curing Room by David Ian Lee about soviet soldiers captured and stripped naked, a state they remain in throughout the play, got me considering other nudity on stage in London at the moment.  It feels like you cannot look up from your gin and tonic and not see a naked person what with Cleansed (National Theatre) and Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward) currently in the West End. I recently signed up as a “Supporting Artiste” and was asked would I get naked for a part. The answer is no and I think that is the root of my fascination with actors that take on roles which see them naked night after night in relatively small spaces. My immediate reaction to hearing that highly respected actors like Michelle Terry and Emma Williams were getting completely nude was “Why?” when actually I should have asked “Well, why not?” Nudity is crucial to both of their productions yet  it still seems extremely brave.

 

Actors get naked on screen all the time, even a respected actor like Mark Rylance did full front nudity in Intimacy (2001) but on the stage it feels really personal and for some audience members a bit embarrassing “I didn’t know where to look!” I was told in a twitter conversation about the recent The Judas Kiss revival with Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox. It featured the gorgeous and rather well endowed Tom Colley walking around stage, completely nude.  That sounds really indulgent but it felt right for the story of Oscar Wilde, a man ultimately bought down by his quest for sexual pleasure and it came from the pen of David Hare-a playwright not known for adding nudity for no reason.

Richard Eyre’s Little Eyolf recently added a nude scene where there wasn’t one in the text. The majority of the audience would probably have been unaware as it worked so well but I did see it described as “gratuitous” but when there are some very dodgy casting calls, just see @ProResting on twitter for some examples. I think a professional director would not add a nude scene unless it was absolutely necessary. I think theatre audiences expect any nudity to have context, or they are just keen to see their favourite actor naked…